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Bradley baseball finds another diamond in the rough

Beau Durbin stares out into the distance in the midst of a grand slam performance. Photo courtesy of Bradley Athletics.

Bradley’s baseball team has struggled mightily after an offseason filled with roster turnover and players returning from injury. The Braves are 10-27-1, having lost or tied in 10 straight games, and are at the bottom of the Missouri Valley Conference (MVC) standings.

Amidst the team’s struggles, sophomore second baseman Beau Durbin, one of 16 new players, has stood out. 

Graphic by Rodrigo Perez.

“We’ve gotten off to a pretty slow start this year, which obviously isn’t the best-case scenario, but I love everybody on the team,” Durbin said. “I love that my family is close and that they get to attend most of the games. The culture is nice. I love playing in Dozer and I’ve built good relationships with the coaches.”

Dubrin hails from Morton, Illinois, a town less than 10 miles away from Bradley, and is one of eight players from the Central Illinois area. 

“Our number one priority has always been to keep local kids in town,” head coach Elvis Dominguez said. “We’ve had some great athletes and some great ballplayers; actually, two are playing pro baseball from local areas.” 

Dominguez’s efforts to recruit locally have seemingly paid off from a team chemistry standpoint. Recruiting players from nearby towns has created a sense of familiarity amongst the squad. 

“It makes the transition to being on a new team a whole lot easier,” Durbin said. “I’ve always looked up to guys like Bogey [junior JD Bogart], Chattey [senior Jackson Chatterson] and even Travis Lutz from being in the Peoria area and watching them play baseball.” 

“It’s cool to see other guys around the Mid-Illini on the same team and having success,” Durbin added.

Durbin grew up in a sports household as his parents, now doctors, played multiple sports in high school and encouraged him to do the same. 

“They’re both really big sports fans,” Durbin said. “My mom is really into volleyball, baseball and basketball. My dad is really into football, baseball and basketball. Growing up, they just threw me into pretty much every sport possible. I played soccer, football, baseball and basketball growing up.”

“Once I got to high school, I had to pick,” Durbin added. “In high school I only played basketball and baseball. Eventually, for college, I decided I wanted to play baseball at a Division I level. So I started to focus on that.”

As soon as Durbin started to focus on baseball, COVID-19 hit and paused his playing career at the most inopportune time.

“COVID was my sophomore year, and that was going to be my first year really having a role at the varsity level,” Durbin said. “That kind of set me back a little in the recruiting process. In my junior year, I didn’t do much. I hit around .300. I was average. I didn’t have many offers at all.”

After his admittedly mediocre junior season, Durbin looked to keep his dreams of playing Division I baseball alive. He spent the summer improving his craft, and the results showed in his senior season.

“I took the offseason before my senior year very seriously,” Durbin said. “I hit around .490. I was first-team All-State, but I think I was a late bloomer.” 

Beau Durbin trotting on the diamond in his senior year at Morton High School. Photo courtesy of Beau Durbin.

Durbin was one of the best players in the state in 2022, but did not get much recognition from schools. The only offers or interests he received were from Division III and junior colleges. Durbin’s baseball future was again challenged, but this time he was no stranger to adversity. 

“I started taking baseball seriously with the goal of playing Division I baseball,” Durbin said. “After high school, I chose Illinois Central College (ICC) because I knew they’d give me the best opportunity to do so.”

Durbin bet on himself, and he won the lottery. 

In his lone season at ICC, Durbin batted .370, registering 74 hits, 52 runs, 43 RBIs and six home runs. Durbin played well enough to catch the eye of Dominguez, who needed a solution at second base. 

“We lost our second baseman last year and needed that hole filled,” Dominguez said. “We saw him in high school and his steps in junior college. He is a great hitter but was an average defender. He’s become an above-average defender because he’s worked at it.”

Durbin started slow this season but excelled in his role in March when he registered 27 of his 49 hits. The rising star has found his footing and will need to continue to improve his game if Bradley hopes to turn things around next season. 

“It’s been tough, but our mentality has been to stay together,” Durbin said. “We are trying to focus on what’s next and not dwell on how we’ve been playing. We are trying to focus on how we can change for the program and the future of Bradley baseball.”

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